Dr Huge Longjohns wrote:
I only skimmed through the Airwindows video
At 2 mins in he switches it out. The mix suddenly sounds flat in comparison to me. Is this just the effect of losing the saturation?
JUMPING ONTO ONE OF MY FAVOURITE HOBBY HORSES ;)
Yes - this is exactly the hardware 'analogue summing' experience Chris has attempted to mimic, and is exactly what I hear too, having spent a long time working with his Console plug-ins.
Like you I could hear the switch from 'space round each individual sound' to flat, as heard in that mix (and I've since heard exactly the same differences between ITB and hardware analogue summing demos - once you lock onto how the sound is changing you can invariably hear it in future summing examples, whatever the gear involved).
However, at first I found the Airwindows Console benefits annoyingly elusive in my own mixes, and spent a long time exploring why, eventually writing up the findings on my web site:http://www.yewtreemagic.co.uk/soundworlds7.php
The reasons I had difficulties? Chris' example of himself singing a single note around 20 times proved to be the perfect subject for revealing the difference, because:
a) Console 5 summing only became audible to me once there were at least a dozen tracks being mixed.
b) Console 5 provided vanishingly small audible summing improvements until the combined peak level of the tracks came close to 0dBFS, and since his singing was of a sustained note, he could optimise this drive level for maximum effect.
My initial demos were of more percussive music and around eight tracks, neither of which gave significant improvements, only occasionally being almost vanishingly audible under headphones, but as I explored more I began to get the idea, and finally began to reap the benefits, essentially by mixing together more channels with combined transient peaks around -2dBFS (going much higher ran into nasty distortion, so with Console 5 it proved to be a fine dividing line between maximum effect and overload).
I published my results, Chris himself was impressed by my efforts and confirmed all my findings, but just a couple of days later he released Console 6, essentially the same technique but using a different algorithm that kicked in at significantly lower audio levels, making it less necessary to push levels so close to 0dBFS to hear the improvements.
You can hear my audio demos via the link above - I offer the same short musical section three times; the first being standard ITB digital summing, the second using Console 5 carefully set to peak at -2dBFS, and the third being Console 6 with -6dBFS peaks.Now to the audible differences (which I can still hear quite easily - see if you agree
The digital summing does sound flat, while Console 5 and Console 6 open this up - listen in particular to the voices in each version. To my ears the percussive voices sound more focused, giving the effect of being to discern each 'singer' more clearly, while the sustained voices sound significantly further away in the Console versions, giving the effect of more 3D 'depth'.
Finally, to the reasons for these changes. The Airwindows Console plug-ins add slight 'pre-distortion' to each channel via its Channel plug-in instances, and then the combined mixed signal is passed through a single Console Buss plug-in, which provides the reciprocal 'undistort' curve:
Now, with a few channels, the 'difference' signal is inaudible, but with a dozen or more channels peaking a few dBS below 0dBFS, some of the initial distortion applied to the peaks of the individual channels gets left in, mimicking the effect of a non-perfect mixing buss, where ambience gets pushed into the far distance. The actual sounds don't seem particularly altered, but the space between the sounds gets hammered with the full 'undistort' treatment, which sounds very distant and thin all by itself. This (to my ears anyway) gives slightly more 3D 'detail' to them i.e. more depth and a sense of enhanced "foreground", which is the effect commonly claimed for high-end analogue mixing desks.
Believe your ears or not as the case may be, but I can reliably hear the difference, and have been using Console 6 on every track I've written since exploring the possibilities.